Saturday, January 30, 2010

Image of the Day

Originally uploaded by zweiblumen
Rockhopper penguin, Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands.

This Week's Pencognito! visit Jen and all the pengies HERE

Thursday, January 28, 2010

African Penguin Love Art on Sale at Mystic

African Penguin Love Art on Sale at Mystic Aquarium & Institute

Wed, 1/27/2010 - 12:08 PM
By Becky Giantonio
Mystic, CT - As the ultimate tribute to Valentine’s Day, two mated African penguin pairs at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration have created 30 original paintings together. These paintings ($124.99) will be available for purchase beginning February 5 in the Aquarium Store and at

The paintings were created by Green-Blue and Green-Black, who have had three chicks over five years, and Gray-Silver and Yellow-Red, who have been a pair for 12 years. Gray-Silver and Yellow-Red have not had any chicks because they are not part of the African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), which approves the breeding of genetically-matched pairs. Blue-Blue, who was the only penguin chick born at the aquarium in 2009 and is part of the SSP, also created some of the paintings.

Creating these one-of-a-kind works with their feet is a form of enrichment for the penguin pairs. First, the penguin sticks out its feet (they have been trained to do this as part of the aquarium’s animal care program), and a trainer dabs non-toxic paint on them. A canvas is laid on the floor, and the penguin is set down on it, free to waddle wherever it wants. Once the paint begins to fade, a new color is applied to the second penguin’s feet. That penguin walks across the canvas to create a layer of hues.

The 16-inch-by-20-inch paintings are double-matted in white with black inner trim and encased in a black wood frame. They are available in two three-color combinations: dark red, blue and green and purple, blue and green.

A portion of the proceeds from each sale will go toward the aquarium’s many penguin conservation efforts here and across the world. Over the last eight years, the world’s African penguin population has decreased by 42 percent. The penguins at the aquarium play an integral role in the African Penguin SSP, and the aquarium staff’s work with them is helping researchers better understand penguins in the wild.

Additional paintings created by one penguin will be available for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and 9-inch-by-12-inch matted prints will be available this summer and fall for $19.99 each.

The Aquarium Store is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (gates close at 4 p.m.). Visit to learn more about the African penguins at Mystic Aquarium and to watch a video of them creating their art.
About Sea Research Foundation, Inc.

Mystic Aquarium, Institute for Exploration and Immersion Learning are divisions of Sea Research Foundation, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)3organization. The mission of Sea Research is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through education, research and exploration.

To view Mystic Aquarium's web page on Zoo and Aquarium Visitor, go to:


Little Penguins Have a Rough Go

West Coast penguins died of starvation

West Coast penguins died of starvation (Source: ONE News) Source: ONE NewsLittle blue penguin
Autopsies carried out on Little Blue Penguins which washed up along the North Island's west coast show they died from starvation.

More than 50 dead or dying birds have been found in the past few weeks, on beaches from Taranaki to Port Waikato.

Department of Conservation marine supervisor Bryan Williams says the penguins were sent to more than one place for autopsies.

He says all tests have found they died of starvation.

Bryan Williams says he personally believes the penguin deaths are a combination of starvation, the algal blooms and the effects of the El Nino weather.



Future bleak for little penguins

By Sarah Bester
Posted January 28, 2010 10:10:00

Conservationists say about 50 penguins are killed by cars each week. (Phillip Island Nature Parks)
Every year, hundreds of tourists visiting remote islands off the Tasmanian coast are enchanted by the site of little penguins - also known as fairy penguins - making their way across the sand dunes after dark towards their burrows.
But on Bruny Island, south of Hobart, visitors are just as likely to be confronted by the sight of tiny penguin carcasses littering the road.
The dirt road along the neck which connects the two islands that form Bruny is part of a corridor penguins use to make their way to their colonies.
Conservationists claim about 50 penguins are hit by cars every week.
They say the future's looking bleaker for the tiny bird, with a plan by the State Government to seal the road and increase the speed limit.
Dr Eric Woehler from Birds Tasmania says the population of little penguins across Tasmania is already under threat from a decrease in habitat and predation from cats, dogs and more recently, foxes.
"The concern that we have is that by sealing the dirt road and increasing the speed limit, we're going to see an increasing number of penguins being killed by cars on the neck," he said.
"As it was on a dirt road we're getting six or seven birds a night being killed by cars."
But he says the group has received no response to 12 months of lobbying the Department of Infrastructure to include speed humps and penguin-sized tunnels in its plans.
"What we're talking about for tunnels under the road is a small tunnel literally not much smaller than a penguin, probably about 30 centimetres or so," he said.
"It's not much additional cost to the road if it's going to be constructed and sealed anyway."
He has accused the state government of putting election points ahead of environmental concerns in pushing ahead with the infrastructure upgrades on the island - which falls under the key Tasmanian electorate of Franklin.
"You'd have to wonder if the electoral candidates for Franklin really want to have killing penguins as part of their election platform," he said.
Dr Woehler says there's also concern over the impact on operators of popular twilight penguin tours.
"The last thing we want to see is tourists stepping off the bus of an evening to see the penguins walking up the beach and being confronted with dead penguins in the car park," he said.
"It's just completely the wrong message to send out."
A spokesman for the Department of Infrastructure, Rod MacDonald, says all environmental approvals have been received and a contract for the upgrade will be awarded next month.


Image of the Day

A penguin takes a nap on Boulder Beach, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Penguins love cold storage

Penguins love cold storage

Last updated: 26/01/2010 14:48:00

While the rest of us have been shivering in the sub-zero temperatures, one group of Norfolk residents have at least being feeling at home with the Antarctic temperatures. SIMON PARKIN says a visit to see the penguins at Sea Life Centre is the prefect winter treat.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The weather couldn't be any less inviting. The sea is churning, the wind is unrelenting and the snow flurries have been record breaking.

For the Humboldt penguins at Yarmouth's Sea Life its pretty much been a home from home though. These hardy creature think nothing of a sub-zero dip and positively reveal in the wintery extremes.

And if you're looking for a family day out in this bleakest month you could do worse than pay them a visit. Thankfully, there's a far

warmer greeting indoors.

Norfolk boasts two Sea Life Centres, one in the county's most popular coastal resort, and the other in beautiful Hunstanton which overlooks The Wash, home to England's biggest colony of common seals.

The centre is one of only a handful of Norfolk tourist attractions which stays open throughout the year (with Banham Zoo, the Dinosaur Adventure Park and Africa Alive! being other notable exceptions), closing only on Christmas Day - making it a failsafe winner on a cold or wet day.

It offers a chance to get up close and personal with a host of stunning displays which bring you up close and personal with a breathtaking world beneath the waves.

But its those that split their time above and below the sea that have really won the hearts of visitors. The Humboldt penguins were transferred to Yarmouth from sister Sea Life centre's in Weymouth and Hunstanton last year to live in a plush new £200,000 penguin pad.

Staff were anxious not only how well they would take to their new home, but how the two different factions would take to each other. However, even if they didn't strike up an immediate friendship, the team were confident the new arrivals would revel in their luxurious new enclosure.

“Humboldts are very sociable birds but it can take them a long time to form bonds, and they are notoriously sensitive to change and nervous of strangers,” said displays supervisor Christine Pitcher.

“The plan was to put the cages carrying the birds from Weymouth and Hunstanton into the enclosure simultaneously then open all four cage doors and wait to see what happens. Nobody really knew how they would react but we were delighted when they all trotted out and mingled.”

All of the birds were born at other Sea Life penguin colonies which collectively comprise a valuable breeding pool for a species under serious pressure in the wild.

Numbers in their native Chile and Peru have been reduced from a six figure total a few decades ago to an estimated 10,000 pairs. Officially classed as 'vulnerable' they suffered in the past as a result of disturbance caused by a thriving market for penguin guano, and more recently because of overfishing.

The popular residents are now feeling more than at home in their special enclosure which includes a deep dive pool and extensive rocky paddock modelled on the rugged South American coastline where the remaining wild Humboldts live.

It also has a series of cave-like nesting quarters in which staff hope new generations of Humboldts will be born and reared in years to come.

As well as picking up a penguin-watching addiction, a visit is also a chance to learn more about the watery world. Staff hold a series of daily events where they enthuse about the incredible aquatic life on display and encourage children to learn fun facts about centre's creatures. For a start, you'll learn where a starfish's bum is. Always good to know.

Also massively popular is the jellyfish display, which is hosted and lit so that you can marvel at every miniscule detail of these amazing creatures which propel themselves through the water like graceful aquatic dancers.

Another favourite are the sharks in the 250,000 litre showpiece walk-through tunnel tank, especially when we attended a great feeding talk from guide Aaron, which was both fun and informative.

Than there's the touch pool, where you can spend a good 45 minutes being given the opportunity to hold starfish (avoiding their bums), hermit crabs and a larger crab who had the good sense to 'play dead' whenever held.

One of the biggest benefits of the Sea Life Centre is the fact you can have your hand stamped and come back throughout the day - perfect to see what those pesky penguins have been up to.

Sea Life, Marina Parade, Yarmouth, open daily from 10am, last admission 3pm Mon-Fri, 4pm weekends, 0871 4232110,


Chicken vs Penguin?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Image of the Day

Humboldt 's Penguin

Status: Vulnerable
Range: Chile, Columbia, Ecuador & Peru
Habitat: Rocky mainland shores
Diet: Fish such as Anchovies & Sardines, and krill

The Humboldt penguin can be found living in small colonies along the Humboldt Straight off the West coast of South America. These penguins stand at approximately 15 to 18 inches tall and weigh around 9lbs. The feathers are stiff and overlap to waterproof and insulate the body. They are black/ grey in colour with a white underside to act as camouflage against predators both above and below the water. Adults have a distinctive black horseshoe shaped band across their breast and a white head stripe.

Nests are made from a substance called Guano (penguin poo) in crevices between boulders. Both the parents take turns in caring for the eggs which take 40 days to incubate. Normally two eggs are laid at a time. Chicks are born with a thick coat of grey fluffy feathers. These feathers eventually turn to grey waterproof feathers. Each year all of the penguins go through a moult where they lose their feathers to be replaced with new ones.

In the water penguins can reach speeds of up to 20 mph. They use their feet and tail as a rudder to steer and turn in the water

Giant guano outcroppings win protection as bird habitat in Peru

Giant guano outcroppings win protection as bird habitat in Peru
Jeremy Hance
January 25, 2010

The Peruvian government has moved to protect 33 guano sites—both islands and peninsulas—as well as surrounding waters in a bid to save declining bird populations.

Millions of birds nest on these guano sites every year, including endangered species such as the Peruvian Diving-petrel and the Humboldt Penguin. The protections, which were first proposed in 2001, cover 350,000 acres.

"One hundred years from now, we may look back at this as a 'sea change' in the political role of the environment in South America. The key will be the extent to which this decision gets fully developed, implemented and enforced," said Dr. Patricia Majluf in a press release. Majluf is the Director of the Center for Environmental Sustainability at Peru’s Cayetano Heredia University and provided the long-term impetus for this initiative.

Birds are attracted to these sites due to the Humboldt Current, which feeds one of the world's most productive marine areas. This nutrient bonanza also makes the area rich in seals, sea lions, and marine sea turtles.

Oddly enough the thousands of acres steeped deep in guano once fed Peru's economy, since bird droppings were highly sought-after organic fertilizer. However, the rise of chemical fertilizers caused this guano market to crash.

Today bird populations have declined due to introduced predators, human harvesting of birds, and the overfishing of their primary food source: the Peruvian anchovy. Peruvian anchovies are ground-up into fishmeal, which is primarily used to feed aquaculture fish.

"American Bird Conservancy is hopeful that this new declaration has the teeth of regulation and enforcement to support and protect important, and in some cases, endangered seabird populations," said Dr. Jessica Hardesty Norris, Seabird Program Director for American Bird Conservancy. 


Monday, January 25, 2010

Image of the Day

Originally uploaded by WeeJavaDude
Big Mac, anyone?

Penguin News from Ripley's in Gatlinburg

March of the Penguins

March of the Penguins
Joe Tennis/Bristol Herald Courier
Mike Kastura, a senior aquariast at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, shows off a tank that is under construction as part of a new penguin habitat.

Ripley’s Aquarium adding a 4,000-square-foot African penguin habitat  
  GATLINBURG, Tenn. – Soon, kids, you can act just as perfect as a penguin. Get on your hands and knees, too, and you can crawl through a submerged acrylic tube – with African Black-Footed Penguins surrounding you, on all sides.

This see-through tunnel – plus see-through tanks – are part of the new “Ripley’s Penguin Playhouse,” now under construction at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Expected to be complete around March 15, this 4,000-square-foot expansion coincides with the 10th anniversary of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, said Mike Kastura, the senior aquariast at Ripley’s.

The $5 million addition marks the first aquarium addition since opening in 2000, Kastura said, but it will come at the cost of the aquarium losing its Veranda Restaurant. Today, doors to the Veranda are posted with signs noting construction is in process. Behind those doors: Workers are fashioning tanks, a tunnel, wave machine and multiple spa jets that will be the home to the penguins.

When finished, naturalistic rockwork and plantings will surround more than 30,000 gallons of temperature-controlled saltwater, depicting the island rookeries along the coast of South Africa. “We went to great, great lengths to put in as much natural features as we can,” Kastura said.

These penguins – natives of South Africa – are sometimes called “Jackass Penguins” for the braying sound that they make. In the wild, these birds live about a dozen years but can live much longer in zoos and aquariums. The penguins average about 25 inches tall and weigh about 7 pounds. Their diets consist of small fish, such as herring, anchovies and sardines.

“We hope to have upwards of a couple dozen,” Kastura said.

Why penguins? “Everyone loves penguins,” Kastura said, smiling, noting the success of the movie “Happy Feet.” Aquarium visitors can see the birds as part of the regular admission to Ripley’s.



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This Week's Pencognito!

Please visit Jen and all the pengies HERE

Cute Video

Penguins rally for comeback

Penguins rally for comeback

23 Jan, 2010 04:00 AM
AN encouraging number of fairy penguins was recorded at Warrnambool's Middle Island this week, despite a cruel attack on the small colony 10 days ago.

Last week environmental workers found three penguin chicks dead and dozens of nests crushed after vandals went on a violent rampage across the island.

Warrnambool City Council environmental officer David Williams said about 120 birds were counted waddling onto the island's shore - a record since the unique Maremma dog project started.

"When the Maremma program started four years ago, there were only four penguins," Mr Williams said. "Now the numbers are increasing with each breeding season."

In the world-first initiative, two sisters of the Italian canine breed have been working to keep predatory foxes away from the vulnerable birds.

The Maremma s are regularly let loose on the island to mark their scent over the special territory.
Mr Williams told The Standard the pair would eventually live on the island for extended periods of time to ensure the penguin's breeding season went uninterrupted.

"The dogs are nearing maturity and will spend the majority of their time on the island next breeding season," Mr Williams said.

However, the population of the penguin colony has been put at constant risk as vandals and trespassers ignore the island's restrictive laws.

A council bylaw prohibits any access to the island but it seems the message is not getting through.
Mr Williams said humans were turning out to be bigger problems than foxes and wild dogs, prompting security cameras to be installed to catch trespassers.

"There are CCTV cameras installed in various locations across the island and people face a hefty fine if caught trespassing," he said.

More than 300 law-abiding participants attended the Meet-the-Maremmas summer program earlier this month.

The daily tours gave participants an insight into the life of a Maremma and the importance of the little penguin colony.

Mr Williams hoped the tours had educated the public enough to help protect the precious rookery.

Anyone who witnesses suspicious activity on the island should call the council on 5559 4800 or 0417 145 781.


Image of the Day

Adeile Penguin
Originally uploaded by Ben Moat
Adeile Penguin at Rothera base, Antarctica

Friday, January 22, 2010

Penguin kidnaps mortal enemy

Penguin kidnaps mortal enemy
Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Penguin defends skua chick
A king penguin adopts and defends a skua chick. (C. Oosthuizen)

A king penguin has been observed trying to adopt the baby of its mortal enemy.
The adult penguin kidnapped a skua chick on Marion Island, in the sub-Antarctic, then attempted to raise it.
During the incident, reported in Polar Biology, the penguin vigorously defended the chick and tried to brood it upon its feet.

Penguins often try to raise chicks that aren't their own, but it's surprising for one to try raise the young of its natural predator, say scientists.
King penguin and skua chick
The king penguin tried to brood the skua chick on its feet. (C. Oosthuize

Chris Oosthuizen and Nico de Bruyn of the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, spotted the king penguin while en route to Goodhope Bay on Marion Island, where they research southern elephant seals, fur seals, killer whales and penguins.
"We initially thought the penguin was brooding a king penguin chick," says Oosthuizen.

"However, it was too early in the breeding season, and not at a regular breeding site. Closer inspection revealed it was actually brooding a skua chick."

Mature skuas eat penguins, preying on their chicks and occasionally taking adults.
An hour later, the researchers returned to find the chick's real parents, two skua birds, attempting to win back their offspring. One skua repeatedly harassed the penguin, spreading its wings, and calling in a bid to have its chick returned.

It's surprising that the penguin adopted a chick of a species that preys on penguin chicks.
Zoologist Chris Oosthuizen, who witnessed the incident
Twice, it succeeded in driving the penguin from the chick, only for the penguin to retaliate by beating its flippers and pecking at the skuas. After each attack, the penguin won the chick back, placing it back on its feet as it would if it was brooding a chick of its own.

The tug of love only ended when a human observer stepped in and returned the chick to its real parents.

Adopting others

King and Emperor penguins often adopt chicks that aren't their own, either taking on abandoned baby birds or kidnapping those of other penguins.

Adult penguins with chick
A parenting hormone bonds adults and offspring. (C. Oosthuizen)
They may be driven to do so by an increased level of the hormone prolactin, known as the "parenting hormone" because it's thought to help maintain the bond between chicks and adults when they're away foraging.

It's not unheard of for a bird to try to raise the young of another species.
Although it is rare, one scientific review collated 140 separate records of it happening, involving 65 species.

Usually it occurs when a parent fails to correctly identify their offspring, because their original nest has been lost and they've flown to another nearby, or because they can't resist the begging cues of chicks that are not their own. But, usually, the behaviour and diet of adopting and adopted species are analogous.

"It's surprising that the penguin adopted a chick of a species that preys on penguin chicks," says Oosthuizen.

Mercy mission

Why it would do so remains a mystery, but Oosthuizen has his suspicions.
"It's likely the penguin simply happened to stumble across this chick, and adopted it, perhaps due to the similar brown colour of the down in both species' chicks," he says.
Skuas eating a penguiin chick
Skuas like to prey on penguin chicks. (C. Oosthuizen)
Thinking it to be a penguin, the adult then thought it should defend the chick against the skuas, which are natural predators, rather than "knowingly kidnapping a skua chick and defending its claim from the rightful parents".

"Seeing an 'abandoned penguin chick' at the mercy of the predatory skuas might have been enough to stimulate the parental care instinct," he says.


King penguins become fast food

King penguins become fast food for Antarctic fur seals
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Death in the water

Antarctic fur seals have been filmed catching and eating king penguins in the open ocean, behaviour not seen before.

Male Antarctic fur seals are known to occasionally take king penguins on land. But this is the first time seals have been observed chasing, killing and eating king penguins at sea. The preference for king-sized fast food has evolved among fur seals living at Possession Island in the Indian Ocean

Details of the behaviour are published in the journal Polar Biology.
Catching a king penguin at sea is not easy.

King penguin

They can weigh up to 13kg at certain times of the year and are very fast moving in the water.

"Both species are very fast swimming and agile animals," says Dr Karine Delord of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, who observed the behaviour.

Usually, the penguins are predated upon by much larger leopard seals and orcas.

Fur seals are also known to prey on king penguins on the shore, a behaviour filmed by the BBC Planet Earth Series.

"But our observations add strength to the unique similar predation in the water," says Dr Delord.

She and her colleagues Dr Yohan Charbonnier and Dr Jean-Baptiste Thiebot were studying the conservation of penguins, sooty albatrosses and giant petrels around Possession Island, one of five small islands that make up the Crozet archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean. While located high up on top of a nearby cliff, they witnessed fur seals predating on king penguins below them in the sea on 17 occasions during five days.

Sometimes the penguins escape injured, sometimes they do not. The longest chase took five hours, when one male fur seal successively attacked at least ten king penguins. Though all were injured, each made it to the shore.

Later the researchers witnessed a fur seal killing and eating a king penguin at sea. "We found that predation on king penguins by Antarctic fur seals is more common and widespread than previously reported," says Dr Delord.

"It is too early to assess the impact of such behaviour because our observations need to be quantified on a longer period of time and other colonies of king penguins."

However, as seal numbers increase in the area, they could start to have a greater impact on small populations of king penguins.

Antarctic fur seal

"Furthermore, the impact on injured adults is probably more difficult to evaluate because some of them survive the attacks, at least a few days," she adds.

"But it is necessary to estimate the impact on their breeding and survival at a longer time."

Currently, 30,000 pairs of king penguins reside at the largest colony on Possession Island, while less than 500 seals live in the same area.
The fur seals are still recovering, after both species were nearly driven extinct by human hunters at Crozet during the 19th century.
So far, the researchers have not documented female Antarctic fur seals attacking king penguins at sea, though it is unclear why the females do not also hunt penguins.

At nearby Marion Island, where most documented attacks by Antarctic fur seals on shore-bound penguins occur, males, and particularly sub-adults males, are responsible.

Videos can be found here at the  SOURCE

Comedy Monologue on Penguin Appreciation Day--love it!

Image of the Day

Originally uploaded by bojabee